Gone but never forgotten — a tribute to the fallen | By Shahnoor Waqas Malik

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Gone but never forgotten — a tribute to the fallen

TO spend your life standing firm in your belief is a virtue only a few retain. Those who fall victim for remaining staunch in their belief, is an honour reserved for the brave and the bold – a sacrifice which not only commands respect but resonates with others to stand up.

This is a tribute to the ones no longer with us, those we lost to terrorism, the people we’ve lost who spoke up against evils, attempting to uncover the truth for those that remain.

The people whose influence lives on today as a result of their sacrifice for the greater good. Unfortunately, Pakistan ranks 157th on the RSF 2022 World Press Freedom Index – there have been countless attempts targeted against journalists till date, with over 150 deaths of Pakistani media workers over the last 2 decades.

A crime bigger than dying for investigating truth against evil is the absence of justice given to those who spanned the demise.

The most recent was the demise of Arshad Sharif, a well-known Pakistani journalist whose assassination on 23 October 2022 in Kenya is still shrouded in mystery.

Though he has been immortalised as a champion by the Pakistani people, he left behind a family of 5 young children and a wife yet to receive any justice.

Perween Rehman, an outspoken critic and highlighter of corruption, was gunned down by four men in her vehicle in 2013.

Her crime was not bending the knee to the threats she received by those she identified as land-grabbers and members of the water mafia in Karachi – while it’s been revealed that her murder investigation was manipulated by certain police officers, the water mafia and land-grabbers continue to thrive in Karachi till date.

Saqib Khan, a photographer for the Urdu-language paper Ummat, died from injuries sustained in a suicide blast in Karachi while simply covering Shias commemorating the holy month of Muharram.

Aslam Durrani, news editor of Daily Pakistan, was covering the political rally of the Awami National Party in Peshawar only to be killed in a suicide attack.

Munir Ahmed Sangi, a cameraman for a Sindhi-language channel was caught in the crossfire while covering the gunfight between two tribes in Larkana.

Shan Dahar, a reporter for Abb Takk Television was shot in Larkana outside a pharmacy – initially, his death was suggested to be by a stray bullet during New Year celebrations.

However, his investigation into unauthorised reselling of pharmaceutical drugs in the area was cited by his family and fellow journalists to be the motive behind his death yet justice still evades all of them.

Unsurprisingly yet regrettably, Pakistan ranks 124th out of 139 countries on the ‘Rule of Law’ Index by the World Justice Project in 2022 – select citizens and groups have been targeted on the basis of their religion, their political preferences, investigations into allegations, being at the wrong place at the wrong time or associating with those whom others consider enemies.

Some have even fallen for simply being Pakistani in areas wrought with anti-state elements.

Azam Malik, the head of the Ship-breaking Association in Gadani, was killed for being Punjabi working in Balochistan rather than a Pakistani working in Pakistan – he was targeted by the BLA to spread fear and sow the seeds of terrorism, yet the memory of him lives on inspiring confidence, strength and resilience.

It is not just children of the ‘lesser gods’ who’ve failed to get justice from the system – 15 years later, and the shadow of who killed ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto still escapes the light of justice.

The recent assassination attempt on Imran Khan is a glimpse that the country can undo many years of progress, development and sacrifices only to fall into chaos and anarchy once again – one mentally unstable man wielding a gun is capable of the downfall of a nation of hundreds of millions.

The late, great founder of Pakistan Observer, Zahid Malik believed in Pakistan and its people – he chose to honour Dr A.Q.Khan, famously known as the ‘Father of Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb’ in 1992 in his book, ‘DrA.Q.Khan and the Islamic Bomb’.

Although his vision allowed him to recognise Dr AQ Khan as a rightful hero of Pakistan, the same sentiment was not shared in that time.

Instead, Zahid Malik was accused of treason for writing in support of his fellow Pakistani. Despite being labelled a traitor to his country (although officially pardoned by the High Court) and arrested – 30 years later, his influence, belief and integrity has shown how ahead of his time he truly was.

Instead of bowing against his morals in face of an unjust punishment and unfair pressure, his relentlessness paved the way for a legacy which lives on today.

The only thing certain in life is death – getting justice in this world or not, this life runs on time and the hereafter runs on accountability.

For those we failed to save, for those who sacrificed their lives to save others and for those who continue the legacy of those we’ve lost – you may be gone but you will never be forgotten.

—The writer is Lawyer, Businessman.